President Jacob Zuma yesterday reclaimed his control of the ANC after weeks of ill-discipline and insults levelled at him by members of the ANC Youth League.
In a show of force and unity, Zuma and the party’s other top five leaders came out publicly and denounced what they termed “alien behaviour” within the ANC ranks.
The media were given the rare opportunity to question the top six – Zuma, his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise and the party’s national chairman, Baleka Mbete, at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
Mantashe said the ANC was concerned about the “alien behaviour” shown by some members.
He said the continued attacks on ANC leaders, particularly by youth league president Julius Malema, were “disingenuous” and “reckless”, and that the party had decided to put a stop to the public spats.
He did not explain how it would go about doing this.
The ANC has been battling to put a lid on public statements by the youth league on who should lead the party after the national elective conference in December.
The league, led by Malema – who the ANC has fired for sowing divisions in its ranks – has been vocal about Zuma’s poor leadership.
It has openly called for leadership changes after the ruling party’s conference in Mangaung, with Zuma being replaced by Motlanthe.
Last week, an increasingly defiant Malema called Zuma a ”dictator” who was ”traumatising” youth league members.
Finally yesterday, the ANC presented a united front and hit back. Mantashe lashed out at Malema, saying the time had come for the ANC to put an end to ill-discipline.
He said Malema’s statement that Zuma was a dictator was a direct attack on the ANC leadership and its executive.
“That is not an insult directed at Jacob Zuma. It is an insult directed [at] us, that we are dwarfs around this dictator. [That means] we can’t think, we just wait for a directive by a dictator.
“I think it is a serious insult directed [at] all of us . because the statement [implies] the leadership, not only [the top officials], the entire national executive committee is an NEC of just dwarfs who are . praise singers.”
He said ”these alien remarks and actions” were being used to create an impression that the ANC leadership was divided.
While Zuma played a supporting role at yesterday’s briefing, the presence of Motlanthe and Phosa sent a strong political statement.
The two leaders recently shared a stage with Malema where the youth leader attacked Zuma’s leadership and questioned his integrity.
Both Motlanthe and Phosa yesterday denounced the youth league’s recent criticisms of Zuma and emphasised that ANC unity was the ultimate objective.
While the ruling party tries to put out fires within its structures, it seems the youth league is not about to abandon its attack.
Earlier yesterday, league spokesman Floyd Shivambu insisted in a radio interview that Zuma needed to be removed as ANC president.
Next Thursday, the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals will hear Malema and Shivambu’s appeals against their sentencing.
Malema has been expelled and Shivambu suspended.Times